americans drawn to syrian terror » ADL Blogs
Posts Tagged ‘americans drawn to syrian terror’
June 23, 2016

13th U.S. Resident Linked to Islamic Extremism in 2016

Akram Musleh of Indiana, arrested for attempting to travel to join ISIS

Akram Musleh

Akram Musleh, an 18-year-old resident of Brownsburg, Indiana, was arrested on June 21 for attempting to travel to join ISIS. Court documents indicate that Musleh had been engaging with terrorist propaganda since at least 2013, when Musleh was a 15-year-old high school student.

According to authorities, the FBI first came into contact with Musleh after it was discovered that he posted three videos of Anwar al-Awlaki to YouTube in August 2013. Awlaki, an American cleric and English-language propagandist for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, was killed in a drone strike in 2011, but his speeches and quotes remain popular among extremist individuals and those radicalizing today. Indeed, the majority of U.S. residents linked to terror motivated by Islamic extremism since 2011 have allegedly downloaded material created by Awlaki or shared his speeches and statements on social media.

Upon finding the Awlaki speeches, court documents indicate that the FBI met with officials at Musleh’s high school, and coordinated with them to discourage Musleh from radicalizing.

Follow-up took place at Musleh’s school. It is unclear whether any measures could have been effective in Musleh’s case; he had allegedly obtained information on Awlaki from a family member, and so apparently had at least one close personal contact encouraging his radicalization. In any event, the measures unfortunately failed.

In April 2014, court documents indicate that Musleh asked minors at a park if they wanted to join ISIS. In 2015, Musleh allegedly made multiple attempts to travel to Turkey or Iraq, areas adjacent to ISIS-controlled territory that are often used initially as destinations for individuals attempting to join the group. In 2016, he allegedly researched attack targets and explosive materials, and then tried again to travel to join ISIS, this time in Libya, where the group has an active faction. He was arrested en route from Indiana to New York, where he allegedly intended to catch a plane from John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Musleh is not the only U.S. resident to radicalize while still in high school. In 2015, 4 minors in the U.S. were linked to activity motivated by Islamic extremist ideology. They are among a total of 25 U.S. residents aged 21 or younger linked to such activity that year. Seven U.S. teenagers were linked to activity motivated by Islamic extremism in 2014.

In recognition of this disturbing trend, ADL has released a series of resources for educators and school administrators that provide background information about extremism and mass violence among school-aged individuals and materials for creating resilience among their students. Among the materials provided is a background report on mass violence and extremism geared specifically to educators and produced in cooperation with START, the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Response to Terrorism, at the University of Maryland. This backgrounder provides information about precursors to violent activity and establishing appropriate support and referral networks. A second resource is a unique lesson plan focused on enabling students to recognize propaganda if and when they encounter it and to become more discriminating consumers of online materials. Parallel resources for parents are available as well.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

May 24, 2016

List of Americans who Joined ISIS Reinforces Statistical Trends

Douglas McAuthur McCain, among the Americans on the list, died in Syria in 2014

Douglas McAuthur McCain, among the Americans on the list, died in Syria in 2014

NBC recently released the names of 15 U.S. residents who allegedly traveled to join ISIS since 2013. The names had been provided to the network by an individual who claimed to be a defector from ISIS and were reportedly verified by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center and other counterterrorism specialists.

While three of the individuals on the list – Abdi Nur, Yusuf Jama, and Douglas McCain – had already been publicly known, the other 12 had not. The list serves as a reminder that, while a considerable number of U.S. residents who have attempted to travel to join ISIS have been identified, there are still more whose identities remain unclear – as many as 250 according to law enforcement sources. The names and backgrounds of individuals on the NBC list also serve as vital reminders of the diversity of the individuals attracted to Islamic extremist ideology, and reinforces what we do know about who these individuals are.

Individuals on the list came from across the U.S. Among the states represented were California, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York , Ohio, Texas, Virginia, and Washington. This geographic diversity is no surprise. ADL’s analysis of U.S. residents linked to activity motivated by Islamic extremism between 2009 and 2015 indicated that the individuals had been arrested in 32 states, as well as internationally. States with the highest numbers of arrests included New York, Minnesota, California and Illinois.

One of the individuals on the list was female, and the rest were male. While fewer women have engaged in activity motivated by Islamic extremism than men, the proportion of women has increased in recent years. ADL documented only 12 U.S. women in total linked to terror motivated by Islamic extremist ideology in the 11 years between 2002 and 2013, but there were 10 in 2014 and seven in 2015 (excluding the woman on the NBC list); there has already been one woman out of the 11 U.S. residents linked to activity motivated by Islamic extremist ideology thus far in 2016.

Interestingly, the woman on the list, Zakia Nasrin, was joined in her extremist pursuits by her husband and her younger brother. Of the 109 U.S. residents linked to terrorism motivated by Islamic extremism in 2014 and 2015, at least 28 individuals were accused or implicated together with family members.

The average age of the individuals on the list when they traveled to join ISIS was 22 years old. The oldest was 33 and the youngest 18. This is a little younger than average. ADL data indicates that the average age of U.S. residents who traveled or attempted to travel to join terrorist organizations abroad between 2009 and 2015 was 25 years old, while the average overall age of U.S. residents linked to activity motivated by Islamic extremist ideology was 28. However, the number of young people has been increasing as well; in 2015, there were a total of 25 out of 81 U.S. residents linked to terror motivated by Islamic extremist ideology who were 21 years old or younger.

At least one of the individuals on the list claimed to have converted to Islam. A little over one quarter of U.S. residents who have been linked to activity motivated by Islamic extremism in recent years similarly were not raised identifying as Muslims, but rather converted or claimed to have converted to Islam, at least nominally. Importantly, these conversions do not necessarily mean they are accepted as Muslims by the mainstream American Muslim community, nor does it mean they have been particularly observant. As with other individuals linked to activity motivated by Islamic extremist ideology, these converts embraced radical interpretations of Islam.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

January 8, 2016

No Sign of Slowdown for Islamic Extremism Arrests in the U.S. in 2016

Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Janab, arrested January 6

Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Janab, arrested January 6

Two U.S. residents were arrested on Islamic extremism related terror charges in the first week of 2016 and a third allegedly committed a shooting on January 7 on behalf of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Following record-breaking numbers of terror related arrests in 2015, these new arrests portend similarly high levels of Americans engaging in plots and other activity motivated by Islamic extremist ideology in the coming year.

Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Janab, a resident of Sacramento, California, was arrested on January 6, 2015. Al-Janab, an Iraqi-born man who had moved to Syria and then come to the U.S. as a refugee from Syria in 2012, is accused of making false statements in a terror-related investigation. Al-Janab had originally left the U.S. to fight with Ansar al-Islam, a Syrian terrorist group, between 2013 and 2014. Ansar al-Islam had been affiliated with Al Qaeda until August 2014, at which time it merged with ISIS.

Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan, a resident of Houston, Texas, was also arrested on January 6, 2015. Al Hardan, who entered the U.S. as a refugee from Iraq in 2009 and is currently a U.S. permanent resident, is charged with providing material support to a terrorist organization by attempting to join the ISIS and with lying in his naturalization application.

A third man, identified as Edward Archer of Pennsylvania, allegedly attempted to kill a law enforcement officer in Philadelphia on behalf of ISIS. There were at least four instances of Islamic extremism inspired violence against law enforcement officers in 2015.

The two individuals arrested were Iraqi born men of Palestinian descent who entered the U.S. as refugees. They reportedly communicated with each other regarding their extremist aspirations.

The vast majority of U.S. residents engaged in terrorism related to Islamic extremism are U.S. citizens.  Between 2009 and 2015, refugees accounted for only three percent of the U.S. residents linked to Islamic extremism.

In 2015, only 3 U.S. residents linked to terror motivated by Islamic extremism had entered the U.S. as refugees. One of the three, Harlem Suarez, entered the U.S. as a refugee when he was a child but appears to have converted to Islam and radicalized while in the U.S.; Suarez was a U.S. permanent resident when he was arrested for attempting to bomb a Florida beach in support of ISIS.

2015 also saw a spike in attempted domestic attacks. There were 18 plots discussed in total in 2015, compared to 1 in all of 2014.

78 U.S. residents in total were linked to terrorist activity motivated by Islamic extremism in 2015. A full list of the individuals, as well as extensive analysis, is available in the ADL report, “2015 Sees Dramatic Spike in Islamic Extremism Arrests.”

In October 2015, FBI Director James Comey indicated that there were 900 open investigations of suspected homegrown extremists, the majority of which are related to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Since that time, there have been 12 U.S. residents linked to terror, at least three of whom (San Bernardino shooters Tafsheen Malik and Syed Rizwan Farooq and Farooq’s friend, Enrique Marquez) had not been monitored by law enforcement prior to the San Bernardino attack in December 2015.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,